Sunday, August 21, 2011

Three decades of neoliberalism: Sarah Posner on the Christian Right

Sarah Posner provides a capsule history of the increasing power of the Christian Right over the last 30 years in The Christian right's "dominionist" strategy Salon 08/21/2011. She warns against superficial understandings of the Christian Right that might interpret, for instance, the newly-visible New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) Pentecostals actively promoting Rick Perry's Presidential candidacy as unique among Republican Christianists in their commitment to theocracy.

Christian dominionism and wifely submission, 16th century edition: Johannes von Leiden (aka, Jan Beuckelzoon), king of the Anabaptist city of M√ľnster, Germany, applies godly punishment (beheading) to one of his wives who failed to show the proper submission to her husband

Christian dominionism (secular rule by religious authorities or on their behalf) has been a strong factor in the Republican Party since the late 1970s. In her account, Posner describes this bit of history:

In August 1980 ... after Reagan had clinched the [Republican Presidential] nomination, he did appear at a "National Affairs Briefing" in Texas, where televangelist James Robison (also instrumental in organizing [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry's [2011 prayer] event) declared, "The stage is set. We'll either have a Hitler-type takeover, or Soviet domination, or God is going to take over this country." After Robison spoke, Reagan took the stage and declared to the 15,000 activists assembled by Moral Majority co-founder Ed McAteer, "You can't endorse me, but I endorse you."

That was also a big moment for [FOX News political commentator Mike] Huckabee, who worked as Robison's advance man. It was even imitated by then-candidate Barack Obama, who met with a group of evangelicals and charismatics in Chicago and repeated Reagan's infamous line. Obama's group included publisher Stephen Strang (an early endorser of Huckabee's 2008 presidential bid) and his son Cameron, whose magazines Charisma and Relevant help promote the careers of the self-declared modern-day prophets and apostles. Huckabee appeared with Lou Engle at his 2008 The Call rally on the National Mall (like Perry's, billed as a "solemn assembly") in which Engle exhorted his prayer warriors to battle satanic forces to defeat "Antichrist legislation." [my emphasis]
And from the time of the Reagan Administration, the Christian Right has also been heavily involved in some of the dirtiest foreign policy business, like support for the Nicaraguan Contras and the Blackwater/XE mercenary organization. So when we hear that a key official in organizing Christian Right support for Michelle Bachmann in Republican Presidential primary states has been involved in shady business providing guns to dubious political groups in Africa, it's important to remember that this is not an anomaly for the Christian Right. It's not a bug, it's a feature. (See Garance Franke-Ruta, Bachmann Staffer Arrested for Terrorism in Uganda in 2006 The Atlantic 08/17/2011)

Posner also highlights the role that The Christian Right has played in promoting the Know-Nothingism that is now so characteristic of the Republican Party:

Most chilling, though, is the willingness to engage in what's known in the Word of Faith world as "revelation knowledge," or believing, as Copeland exhorted his audience to do, that you learn nothing from journalism or academia, but rather just from the Bible and its modern "prophets." It is in this way that the self-styled prophets have had their greatest impact on our political culture: by producing a political class, and its foot soldiers, who believe that God has imparted them with divine knowledge that supersedes what all the evil secularists would have you believe. [my emphasis]
Confidence based on evidence is one thing. Certainty based on a half-baked version of the Christian faith is something very different. The latter doesn't comport well with democracy.

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